Good writers know that how you wrap up what you are saying is very important, because those words will stick with your audience. The Apostle Paul was a master of this. He understood that the way he closed his letters would communicate volumes to the recipients of those letters. He generally dictated his letters to another person, but would often take the pen himself to write the concluding sentences of the letter.
This morning, we are going to look at Paul’s concluding words to the Ephesians. We have spent the last ten months examining every verse of Paul’s letter and have seen Paul move from deep theology to intensely practical application. We have covered a lot of ground throughout this study, but now Paul wraps things up by offering a benediction or a blessing to his readers.
The Faithful Servant
Paul first addresses a personal matter that he knew would be of interest to the Ephesian church. Paul had a close relationship with the Ephesians because earlier in his ministry he had spent three years there teaching. At the beginning of the letter he mentioned that he had heard about their strong faith and their love for God’s people everywhere. Hearing this good report about the believers in Ephesus was a reason for Paul to praise God. He wanted to encourage them with news about how he was doing as well. They had probably heard he was in prison and they were probably worried about how their dear friend was doing. Though he didn’t have space to write all about how he was doing in the letter, he told them that his friend and partner in ministry, Tychicus would be delivering the letter and would tell them everything they needed to know. Paul knew they would be encouraged to hear that although he was in prison, he was continuing with his ministry.
It is interesting to note what Paul says about Tychicus.
He is a beloved brother and faithful helper in the Lord’s work. (Eph. 6:21b, NLT)
We know very little about Tychicus from Scripture. He didn’t write any letters or do anything that is recorded for posterity. What we know about Tychicus comes from the times that Paul mentions him in his letters. It appears that Tychichus was a traveling companion of Paul and a partner in ministry. It is likely that Tychicus was present for many of the major events of Paul’s third missionary journey. Each time Paul mentions Tychicus, he talks about how he is a faithful servant of the Lord and could be depended on. Paul had come to rely upon and genuinely love Tychicus.
I believe there are a couple of lessons here from the example of this man who is almost a footnote in Scripture. Tychicus may not have had the position or gifts that Paul had, but that did not mean he was insignificant to the kingdom of God. On the contrary, Paul recognized that God used Tychicus in ways that He could not use Paul! If you think about it, we might not have the book of Ephesians if not for Tychicus—because Paul would have had no way of getting the letter delivered, since he was in prison. The lesson for us is that even though we may not be given a flashy or public role to play in the kingdom, God has given each of us a job to do and the gifts to do it. Rather than lamenting that we don’t have someone else’s gifts or abilities, we should rejoice in using our gifts and abilities to serve the Lord. We should strive to be people who are like Tychicus, faithful helpers in the Lord’s work. Whatever role God has given you to play, you should play it faithfully.
Conversely, we see from Tychicus that none of us can do it alone. If ever there was a Christian who we might think could have done everything on their own, it was the Apostle Paul. But Paul needed someone like Tychicus—a faithful friend who was willing to do the work behind the scenes that enabled Paul to be free to use his gifts. We are created to need each other. The Church should function as a community of believers, not just a place where we go on Sundays. It should be a place where we use our gifts to benefit others and reap the benefits as others use their gifts. As we look at the example of Tychicus, we should ask ourselves a couple of questions. First, am I doing what I can to benefit the body of believers? Am I using the gifts I have to honor God? Second, we should ask if we are allowing others to serve or whether we are trying to do it all ourselves. We see from the relationship of Tychicus and Paul that we are created to need each other—so we are foolish to ignore that need.
After telling the Ephesians about how Tychicus would be delivering the letter, along with an update on his own well-being, Paul closes the letter by pronouncing three blessings to the Ephesians.
Before we look at Paul’s blessings I think we should ask ourselves a question. If we were to wish blessings upon our friends or family, what would we most desire for them? We might wish that they find success in their career, happiness in their families, or security in their finances. Our society places a tremendous emphasis on these things. Most of us would not immediately think about spiritual blessings, because we don’t think of them as being that important. We think of the “big” blessings as things like wealth and health. We tend to see spiritual blessings as being “lesser”. Paul, however, sees the spiritual blessings as first and foremost. These are the kind of blessings he wishes for the Ephesians, because he knows they are far more significant and lasting.
The first blessing he wishes upon them is peace. We typically think of peace as the absence of conflict. In our minds, peace is the opposite of war. If there is not war going on, then there is peace. But true peace is much deeper than simply the absence of conflict. It is about true reconciliation.
There are two major areas where Paul wishes the Ephesians might experience true peace. The first is that they might experience peace with God. Having peace with God is about being in a right relationship—a restored relationship, where there is no longer anything that keeps us apart.
In Numbers 6:24-26, we see the traditional Aaronic blessing that was (and still is) pronounced upon people.
24 The Lord bless you and keep you;
25 The Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you;
26 The Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace. (Numbers 6:24-26, NIV)
The essence of this blessing is that the people would have peace with God, and it uses vivid imagery to communicate what this kind of peace looks like. Peace with God is described as the Lord keeping us, making his face shine upon us, and turning his face toward us. I think of this description of peace as the Lord looking upon us the way a parent looks upon their child as they achieve a major milestone in life. Think about the way a parent looks at their child as they graduate or get married or receive a major award. The parent’s face is a picture of love, pride, and joy as they look toward their child. This is kind of what I think having peace with God is like. When our relationship with God is restored, He no longer looks at our sin and our past failures, but he looks upon us with love and joy. As a result, we experience joy, acceptance, and closeness with the Lord. This is what Paul wished for the Ephesians and for us—that our relationship with God might be real and vibrant, and that we may feel safe and secure, knowing that He loves us.
But I think there is a second sense in which Paul wishes for the Ephesians to have peace. He not only desires that they would be at peace with God, but also that they would be at peace with one another. Throughout the book of Ephesians, Paul has returned to this theme of unity among followers of Christ many times. He urged us to cherish one another, rely upon each other, and seek the Lord together. This kind of peace doesn’t come naturally, however. The natural human tendency is to push to be number one—to insist that our needs are more important than the needs of others. But throughout the book of Ephesians we have been reminded that God has shown tremendous love to each of us, so all of the human divisions that we can come up with are irrelevant, because we all stand together as children of the King.
True peace among believers only happens only when we begin to grasp the magnitude of the forgiveness we have received. Then we will begin extending forgiveness to each other. When we begin to see that God views each and every member of His body as a treasure valuable enough for him to sacrifice his only son then we will be willing to extend that same kind of love to each other. If we, as Christians really understand this, we will live at peace with each other. we will not just stop fighting, but we will love, cherish, and care for one another. In a world where conflict normally rages, that kind of peace is a breath of fresh air. Paul’s desire for the Ephesian church was that they would experience this kind of peace—and I believe he would pray the same for us today.
The second blessing Paul extends is love with faithfulness. In chapter one, Paul praised the Ephesians because he had heard about their love for God’s people everywhere. He saw in them a genuine concern for others rather than a preoccupation with themselves. So, if Paul had already seen this kind of love present in their lives, why would he wish that they be blessed with love?
Paul understood that this kind of love must be continually cultivated and maintained. The kind of love that we are expected to show is the same kind of love that Christ has shown to us. It is a selfless, self-sacrificing kind of love. It is a kind of love that cares for others simply because they are valuable, not because of what’s in it for us. Paul knew that it doesn’t take much for a group of people to change from being loving and self-sacrificing to being indifferent and self-absorbed. He wanted the Ephesians to continue in the pattern with which they had begun.
God desires that we love everyone. That means that we are concerned about them, we are interested in what’s going on in their lives, and we seek to be attentive to their needs. Some people are easy to love: the people who treat us well, the people with whom we just “click”, the people who seem to love us. It’s not hard to love those people. But the Bible is clear that we aren’t just supposed to love those who love us—we are supposed to love everyone. Paul’s desire for the Ephesians (and for us) is that we would have this kind of love—a love that is concerned for the people who “rub us the wrong way”, for the people who have wounded us in the past, and for the people who don’t seem to love us back.
This is the kind of love that should be present in each of us, and in our church. People should be able to see in Christians a love that is different from the world. Be honest with yourself—does the way you show love stand out from the way the world does?
Most of us fall far short of the kind of love God desires us to have. We have a tendency to only show love when it will benefit us rather than showing the kind of selfless love that God desires. So, how do we develop this kind of love? The answer is found in Paul’s blessing. He says that the Ephesians should have love with faithfulness. It is only when we are faithful to the truths that Paul has laid out in Ephesians that we can show this kind of love. As we walk more closely with Jesus, we will also begin to walk more closely with each other. The opposite is also true: when we begin to drift from our walk with Christ we will begin to find more areas of conflict and contention in our interactions with others. It is not enough for us to merely understand that God loves us even though we don’t deserve it, we must internalize that truth and allow it to impact the way we live our lives.
So where do we start? How do we go about changing the way we love others? Here are some ideas:
- Work at being patient with the people in your house. Don’t jump to conclusions when someone says or does (or doesn’t do) something that upsets you. Take a step back and try to give them the benefit of the doubt. Work to understand why they do what they do instead of complaining about how your family annoys you. Try to see them as Jesus would.
- Look for ways to serve others instead of expecting them to serve you. When you see something that needs to be done, do it! Take out the trash, clean the kitchen, do the laundry, fix something that’s broken, clean up a mess that you notice. Don’t draw attention to the fact that you did it, just do it as a way of serving others. We must work to remind ourselves that there are others in the world besides us.
- Work at forgiveness. Whether it is a small hurt that stems from a misunderstanding or something much larger, start making steps to restore your relationship with the other person. It may start by asking God to help us to forgive the other person. At the start, we may not even desire to forgive or be reconciled, but we can ask God to help us remember how much He has forgiven us. As God begins changing our hearts we might be able to take the first step, which might be simply being civil to the other person, by being the one to strike up a conversation and say hi. It may be a long road to complete restoration, but you can take the first step along the path.
- Take an interest in the lives of others. Ask someone about what’s been going on in their life and avoid the temptation to “one-up” them with something that’s going on in your life. Work at simply trying to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn.
We should start in our own houses, but we should do the same thing within the church. When people come into our church, do they genuinely feel Christ’s love, or does it feel no different from the rest of the world? We can apply the same principles here:
- Introduce yourself to someone you don’t know instead of complaining that there are so many people who seem like strangers.
- Take some time to find out what is happening in the lives of people who sit near you in church. You might have to start by finding out their names!
- Look for ways that you can serve others in the church. Whether it’s something that others will see or something behind the scenes, you can show love by helping others.
If we can learn to love in this way, it will be a tremendous blessing, both to us and to everyone with whom we come into contact. If we want to love in this way, it isn’t enough for us to simply remember the lessons we’ve learned from Ephesians—we must actually apply them to our lives. When we live out the truths that Paul has taught, then we too will be blessed by having love with faithfulness.
The third blessing is grace to those who love our Lord Jesus Christ. Grace is a central theme in the book of Ephesians. The idea of grace is one of an undeserved gift from God. Paul in all his letters reminds us that every breath we take is an undeserved gift. Because of sin we deserve to be cast from God’s presence. But God doesn’t destroy us. That’s grace. But God didn’t stop there. He has done something incredible in sending Christ to bear our punishment. Those who put their trust in Him experience an incredible gift: we are made right with God!
This grace doesn’t stop at salvation. If you will, it is the very air we breathe. We experience God’s grace when we:
- See ourselves growing spiritually
- Put on the armor of God to resist temptation
- Are carried through a difficult time, knowing God is with us
- Understand a truth from Scripture for the first time
- Experience the guidance of God’s Spirit
Paul says that this grace is eternally on all who love our Lord Jesus Christ. That means if we truly love the Lord, then we should be constantly aware of the presence of God’s grace in our lives. All Christians can and should experience this kind of grace.
Paul’s hope for the Ephesians (and us) is that we would come to rely upon Christ and daily receive His grace in our lives. We must be always aware of God’s grace, but never presume upon it or take it for granted.
When we live with an appreciation of God’s grace several other things will happen. First, we will live with a new sense of gratitude. Like a person who has survived a horrible accident we will recognize that we have been given a “second chance”. Second, there will be a sincere humility that understands that we have been extended a love we could never deserve. Arrogance and harshness will give way to a humble softness. Third, being recipients of grace, we will start to extend this grace to others. The one who truly loves Christ should be daily in awe of the undeserved love that we are shown by the Father through Christ. As we grow in our faith, we should become ever more aware of how every blessing we receive, from salvation to our next breath, is a result of God’s grace toward us. The more we understand that truth, the more it will affect the way we live.
Paul closes out his letter by wishing these blessings upon the Ephesians, but in a sense, they all flow out of the things he has said prior to this point. Paul’s desire for the Ephesians to experience these blessings does not come out of nowhere. He is praying that they will begin to implement the things he has told them in his letter. If they will do the things that Paul has instructed them to do, then they will experience peace, love, and grace in their lives.
Throughout our study of Ephesians, we have been continually reminded of the position that we have because of Jesus Christ. We have seen that Christians have no grounds to boast or to think of ourselves as better than non-Christians. We must remember that if we are believers it is only because God has changed our hearts and made us new. This is not simply a theological truth to understand, it is a principle that should guide our lives. Paul has helped us to see that if we understand this it will cause us to view one another as equals; to take into account other people’s perspectives in our marriages, our families, and our jobs; and to avoid the sinful pattern of the world in which we live.
As Paul concluded the letter, he knew that if we would seek to apply the lessons he gave to us, that we would be able to experience peace, love with faithfulness, and the grace of God. These are blessings that every Christian can experience. The book of Ephesians gives us the directions on how to get there…we just need to follow them.